This week marked two historic anniversaries: The Apollo 11 moon landing and the Scopes “Monkey Trial.” Both challenged our understanding of what it means to be human and even what it means to be a person of faith.
There are still Americans who believe that the 1969 moon landing was faked. Fox broadcast a documentary in 2001 entitled “Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon?” and a 2013 IFC offering on the work of directing legend Stanley Kubrick suggests that he helped to create much of the footage. Depending on the pollster, somewhere between 6% and 20% of Americans (and nearly 30% of Russians) believe that Neil Armstrong took a stroll on a Hollywood back lot and not the lunar surface.
And while John Scopes’s insistence on creation theory was a publicity stunt rather than a clash of sincerely held beliefs, 46% of Americans today think he had the right idea—a statistic that hasn’t shifted in 30 years.
Where does that leave us? Are there some who believe we were created by God (with Adam, Eve, the serpent, the garden, the whole nine fundamentalist yards), but that we shouldn’t reach beyond the tallest trees our apish non-ancestors inhabited? Or have we grown so used to being lied to that we resist believing anything at all?
I think it’s OK to accept what can be proven and believe in what cannot. I’m proud that Franciscan Roger Bacon pioneered the scientific method and that the father of genetics was Augustinian monk Gregor Mendel. With countless others in the Catholic intellectual tradition, they show us that science isn’t opposed to God—it’s just one more way to explore and understand the wonder of the created world.
There is a vast universe out there that will take us every bit of eternity to explore, but we can still celebrate what we know of our small corner.
Image courtesy of xedos4, freedigitalimages.net